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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Structures > Guiding principles and procedural principles

A closer look at participation rights in Social Code Book 8

Book 8 of the Social Code implements the participative orientation of child and youth services in discrete rights. These rights can be described as follows:

  • rights of autonomy,
  • rights of participation in shaping programmes provided in child and youth services facilities,
  • rights of participation in shaping child and youth services in the community.


Ein Mädchen und ein Junge lächeln in die Kamera / A girl and a boy smiling at the camera

The right of children and adolescents to participate in decisions that affect their own lives and that affect the structure of child and youth services in individual facilities and in society is a common thread throughout Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII). Participation rights in this sense operate on various different levels, described in law:

  1. Rights of autonomy
  • Article 1 of Book 8, in endowing children and adolescents with the right to an upbringing as an independent, responsible and socially competent individual, speaks to the connection between autonomy and "social competence". In a democratic society, this includes their right and responsibility to participate in and co-shape society.
  • Article 5 (1) grants children and adolescents the right to choose between the facilities and services of different providers and to express their wishes as regards how the support is structured (provided it does not incur disproportionately high costs).
  • Article 8 requires children and young people to be involved in decisions by public-sector child and youth services that affect them, in line with their developmental status. This must be in consideration of their maturity and growing ability to act independently and responsibly. It must take place in a manner that is appropriate and understandable.
  • In respect of the state's duty of protection, Article 8a (1) stipulates that where the child or adolescent's welfare is in danger, the parents/guardians along with the young person affected must be involved in a risk assessment to the extent that this does not hinder the provision of effective protection.
  • Article 9a states that young people can turn to independent ombuds offices for advice, mediation and conflict resolution in connection with the tasks of child and youth services. The ombuds office is not accountable to another authority.
  • Article 42 (1) no. 1 grants children and adolescents an unconditional right to be taken into custody upon their request.

2. Rights of participation in shaping programmes provided in child and youth services facilities

  • Article 4a (1) states that eligible recipients and service beneficiaries can join forces as part of member-led associations to support, guide and advocate for the addressees of child and youth services.
  • Article 9 no. 2 stipulates that the services must be structured and tasks fulfilled taking into account the growing abilities of the child or young person and their growing need to act independently and responsibly.
  • Article 11 states that children and adolescents must be involved in deciding and shaping youth work activities.
  • Article 12 (2) states that youth work in youth associations and youth groups is organised by young people themselves, implemented jointly and the responsibility shared by all.
  • Article 36 grants young people and adolescents the right to co-determine the services that support their upbringing (as part of support planning, or the Hilfeplan) by helping to determine demand, the type of support to be provided and the scope.
  • In order to be granted an operating licence, Article 45 requires child day-care facilities and residential care facilities to safeguard the rights of children and adolescents who use the facility by taking suitable steps to ensure self-advocacy and participation and provide the opportunity to raise complaints in connection with private matters both within and outside of the facility.

3. Rights of participation in shaping child and youth services in the community

  • Article 4a calls on public-sector child and youth services to promote and cooperate with member-led associations and, inter alia, to include them in working groups pursuant to Article 78.
  • Article 12 states that youth associations represent the interests and concerns of young people and advocate for them in dialogue with society.
  • Article 71 (1) requires adequate consideration be given to proposals of the youth associations in connection with appointments to the youth welfare committee.
  • Article 80 (1) no. 2 states that public-sector providers must, when planning youth services, identify demand taking into account the wishes, needs and interests of young people and persons with custodial rights.
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